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The store called S. Bryan & Company stood on the banks of the Ohio River at the foot of Court Street in Burlington, Ohio. The store took its name from the wife of the family, Sarah Lane. She was a wife woman who married mulatto John Bryant in 1827. John or his father, John, purchased the property in 1823. They were descended from freed slave Rosannah Byran or Bryant who owned land in Lawrence County, Ohio in 1818.

Map of Burlington with location of S. Bryan & Co.

Map of Burlington with location of S. Bryan & Co.

Today, the small park in Burlington, Ohio which sits on the river bank is all that remains of the original property. The business known as S. Bryan & Company probably assisted new Black families and runaway slaves who crossed the Ohio River near Burlington, Ohio, as well as providing local people with supplies.

The property was purchased from Elijah Frampton for $700 in 1823. Burlington and Lawrence County had only been in existence for six year, but the family of ex-slave Rosanna Bryant owned recorded property in the county. Her son John(1) bought the river front property, which he passed to his son John(2) in the 1830's. John (2) allowed his son John(3) to take charge of the store about 1844. John Bryant(3) married a white woman anmed Sarah Lane in 1829 and their children were considered white. The store was registered in Sarah Lane Bryan's name. When John (3) died in 1850, the property passed to William Henry Bryan, his son. The property remained in the Bryan family until 1858 when the three remaining children sold their shares to Stephen Wilson.

The decade before the Civil War was difficult for this branch of the Bryant family. John (3) died in 1850 and Sarah sold 1/2 her share of the business to her oldest son William Henry Bryan. When Ironton became the new county seat in 1852, William bought fourteen pieces of property in Burlington as their former owners sold out and moved down river. Then 1857 arrived and cholera struck the Ohio River communities. Within three months Sarah and two of her five children were dead and buried in Green Lawn Cemetery. In 1858 the remaining three children sold the business to Stephen Wilson. John M. was already living in California, but he signed the legal papers. Daughter, Sarah Ann also signed the sales document. She had married Joseph Davidson, but she died just two years later in Ashland, Kentucky.

This branch of the Bryant family lived in the Black community, but operated their business under the name of (white) Sarah Lane Bryant. Between 1823 and 1850 their business was an important part of the Burlington community and assisted numerous Black families. The multiple family deaths, William Henry's poor business management and the beginnings of the Civil War destroyed both business and family.

If you look to the south,under the sign for Burlington Park, the Ohio River flows behind the sign.

Atlas of Lawrence County, Ohio by H.H. Hardesty & Co., 1882 and D.J. Lake & Co., 1887 - Reprinted by the Lawrence County, Ohio Historical Society 1985.

Eldridge, Carrie. Freedom Lies Across the River: 2021

Lawrence County, Ohio Recorder of Deeds - Books 3, 5, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18. Accessed on line at

Lawrence County, Will Book 1.

Image Sources(Click to expand)

Carrie Eldridge - Lake's Atlas of lawrence County, Ohio with additions